After training on Tuesday, March 28, New York Red Bulls head coach was asked about Aurelien Collin's extended break from the starting lineup. Specifically, he was asked if it was a coach's decision, a fitness issue, or..."No," was Marsch's initial response. And then he kinda also said yes.
First of all, we value Damien [Perrinelle].
We just felt like Aurelien needed to get himself a little bit more fit and a little bit more sharp - and in the meantime I think that he's spent the last few weeks having a really good mentality and preparing himself even more. I think he's a distinct possibility from the start for this game.
Collin was the signing that seemed to turn RBNY's 2016 around. Hastily acquired for buttons and a smile from Orlando City, Collin quickly proved himself adept in the Red Bulls' system and as effective a defender as he has ever been in MLS (and he has often been considered one of the league's best center backs since landing in the league in 2011).
Unsurprisingly, he was a starter for RBNY's opening games of 2017: the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Vancouver Whitecaps. Some observers thought Collin looked a little off his game in those matches, and it appeared Jesse Marsch agreed. Damien Perrinelle slotted in to the lineup for the team's MLS season-opener in Atlanta and has been the preferred starter alongside Aaron Long in the center of defense ever since. Collin has registered one 15-minute appearance as a sub.
But he doesn't appear to have been so in need of fitness that he couldn't be on the bench. It does indeed seem like a coach's decision to sit Collin, and a coach's decision to keep the mostly successful partnership between Long and Perrinelle going.
What it looks like is RBNY has a pretty straightforward open competition for a starting place going at center back. Collin and Long were the starting pair to begin the season, Perrinelle has since supplanted Collin, and there will likely be further switches during the season as dictated by form and fitness.
Marsch says Collin is a "distinct possibility" to start against Houston Dynamo on April 1 - and one suspects that it will always be true this year that whichever of the three specialist CBs Marsch currently has in his rotation is on the bench will forever have a shot at starting the next game.